Amazon is trying to strengthen its position against competing smart home products

Nicholas Shields for Business Insider:  Developers for connected camera companies can now build skills to link their devices to the forthcoming Echo Show, Amazon's most expensive smart speaker and the first to feature a screen, thanks to a new Smart Home Skill API.

A handful of companies have already taken advantage, including Netgear, Ring, and Vivint. These companies have built a feature allowing users to say, for example, "Alexa, show me the front door," and the Echo Show will give the user a live stream of their front door or other location where a camera is installed.

This move supports Amazon's larger strategy of creating a robust, practical, user-friendly ecosystem for the Echo devices to combat the increasing threat from competing ecosystems.

Echo's competitors are increasing. Apple and Google are trying to create large, voice-centric smart home ecosystems. The Echo products are immensely popular — BI Intelligence estimates that about 9 million US households own at least one device — and there are hundreds of devices that work with their smart speakers. In response, Google and Apple have released competing devices and made moves to build out their device ecosystems.

Creating a large ecosystem that's practical for users could help it fend off these competitors, and this API helps it do that. Google and Apple both have large, loyal user bases, meaning many consumers could opt to buy the HomePod if they, for instance, already have an iPhone. But Amazon doesn't have the mobile ecosystem that Google and Apple do, meaning if it wants to persuade consumers to opt into its ecosystem, it needs to create a large ecosystem of devices that easily work with their smart speakers, and provide utility to users. And through this new API, users can view their front door for visitors and potential intruders, a utility the HomePod and Google Home don't have. What's more, is that more consumers are interested in the Show than the HomePod right now, and this feature could make it even more appealing.  
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